Book design/layout question

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SapereAude

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My background a very long time ago was graphic arts, then I moved into architecture and engineering. Now that I'm in the process of creating my first book, those two worlds are either converging ... or colliding. I'm not certain which.

There are innumerable articles and YouTube videos available about laying out a book -- deciding on margin sizes, etc. Coming from an art and graphics background, of course, I'm well acquainted with the Golden Mean, and da Vinci's Vitruvian Man sketch. If you have looked into page layouts at all, there are a couple of classical canons for page layout, which conveniently arrive at the same proportions for text vs. margins but they get there by different routes.

The problem is that, except for fancy, expensive "coffee table" books, no books are printed using those layout canons. They leave too much blank space, which makes the books use up too many pages. Looking at a lot of the books on my shelves, and then at some of the templates and so-called guidelines put out on various web sites, I don't see any consistency at all from one book to another. So how do you select your margin sizes? And in setting them up on your computer, do you treat the gutter as a separate dimension (as is possible in Word), or do you just use an inside and outside margin and call it a day?

Suppose you were going to do a non-fiction book with a trim size of 5.5" x 8.5"? What would you use for your margins, and why?

If you treat the gutter as a separate dimension, what do you use? I have seen numbers ranging from an eighth of an inch to 0.3 inches. Both seem a bit extreme to me, but I'm new to this so I need some help.

Thanks.
 
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CathleenT

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This is not an area of strength for me, so hopefully someone else will answer. I always used the default templates they had in Createspace, which no longer exists. Since I haven't used the KDP paperback program yet, I just went through it and poked around. It seems like it has default templates where you don't even have to set gutters, which is nice, since that's one less thing to have to deal with.

And I haven't used it yet, but D2D has some sort of paperback program, too, although the last time I checked, it was still in beta.

Templates can be limiting. OTOH, if almost everyone is using them because they're easy, they're going to end up being what people expect to see.

I know paperback formatting used to be this whole applied art discipline before, and a lot went into it. I'm not trying to be facile or dismissive of that. But as this stuff gets more and more automated, to make it easier for those of us who struggle with tech details, I think you're going to see less of an ROI on your time if you want to circumvent the software.

However, if you're willing to accept the standardized KDP appearance, I don't think you need to struggle with these questions.
 

SapereAude

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CathleenT said:
However, if you're willing to accept the standardized KDP appearance, I don't think you need to struggle with these questions.
How do I know if I'm willing to accept the KDP defaults if I don't know what they are? I don't want to find out after the book is published that I hate it.

[Edit to add] If the books you show in your signature block were done using the KDP defaults, what trim size did you choose, and what are the margin dimensions?
 
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